Monday, May 09, 2011

Music Video Deluge

I know I need to try harder than this.

I happened to be driving close enough to Maine on Saturday that I could pick up one of their public radio stations, which unlike those in the state I live in, actually play music once in a while. It was the 70th anniversary (May 7, 1941) of Glenn Miller's famous recording of "Chattanooga Choo Choo", so that was the centerpiece of one of the segments on the program I was listening to.

In contrast to the 10 and 20 year-old artifacts which seem to me to be more or less on a continuum with the present, this song seems a lot older than 70 years. Is it possible that anyone with any memory of the world out of which it arose can really still be alive? In addition Glenn Miller's music in particular sounds more dated right now than that of most of his prominent contemporaries. Besides that the more famous hits have remained ubiquitous enough even for people my age to have grown overfamiliar with them, their animating spirit is about as far from the current zeitgeist as it probably ever will be. I still like them, but they definitely come across as dead museum pieces that don't have anything to say about even my life going forward.

My favorite Elvis song. Probably in part because the Smiths did a partial cover of it, which led me back to the original. I have never really been much of an Elvis fan and was decidedly not one in those days.

That said, the young Elvis seems to be pretty close to the absolute limit of coolness, at least if you're white. He is untouchable. Pretty much everybody who has come along after him pays him deep homage, and ridiculing him on the grounds of one's own superiority to the King whether in taste, musicianship, breeding, manliness, overall worth to humanity, and so on, even if it is absolutely true, has little effect on the stature he possesses as an icon of modern life and usually recoils on the ridiculer, diminishing him and his claims to importance even more.

Someday, when I find a few more solid examples, I am going to do a post called Books and Movies Nominally Set in New Hampshire That Bear No Resemblance to Actual Life in New Hampshire (there are probably already enough to do a similar post for Maine, though). So far I can think of Peyton Place and Our Town. I haven't seen On Golden Pond, so I can't include that one for sure. There is some dispute as to whether the college in Animal House is supposed to modeled on Dartmouth or somewhere else. If it is Dartmouth, I can assure you there is no bar like the one Otis Day and the Knights were playing at within about a five hour drive of campus. The most egregious example by far of course is the first half of the 1962 Stanley Kubrick version of Lolita. As if!

Lolita is rare among films of the 60s in that it seems to be more popular among people around my age and younger than older cinephiles, who have always regarded it rather indifferently. It was a favorite among my set at school back in the early 90s. Of course at my school, especially at that time, it was frequently possible to imagine that something of the air of 1962, especially that particular strain of it illuminated (suggested?) in the movie, still infiltrated the atmosphere. This was one of the charms of the place. Whatever the purported flaws of the film are supposed to be, I would have to consider them as minor compared to the barrage of style, good humor, intelligence and coolness that bursts out of from practically every set, song, role and line in this movie.

If I may once have tried to qualify my interest in the following as a guilty and rather shameful pleasure, I have to admit now that I have moved beyond any sense of guilt. I am not giving them up.

The Lennon Sisters's father was Irish, for what it's worth (I am lately realizing that 90% of the girls I am in love with are substantially of Irish descent).

I was on a 70s kick a couple of weeks ago. This is rare but it does happen from time to time. I was listening to the Blackbyrds ("Walking in Rhythm"), Yvonne Elliman, who had a number of hits and also played Mary Magdalene in Jesus Christ Superstar, the songs "Midnight at the Oasis" and the pathetic "Seventeen", and last but not least, the immortal Andrea True Connection ("More More More") who is just a bit too much for this site's handling capacity. I've chosen this song because for some reason I was in love with the backup singer on the left in the video for several days. I am mostly over it now, but it still happened. She is very 70s looking and was probably a total bitch but I was taken with her look. That retro-1890s hairstyle was quite prevalent for a few years there, especially among the more fair-haired types. It didn't work all that well on everybody, but this particular woman has very fine, clear features and it suits her.

Leo Sayer, 30 years on and channeling Richard Simmons in a multitude of ways, came out of retirement to collaborate with the Wiggles on a version of his signature hit. Other than one goofy part in the middle it pretty much is a jam. Singing in Greek during the second half of the song was an inspired touch.

The guy in the yellow shirt is not the original yellow-shirt Wiggle. The original guy was the frontman, and he was much cooler, but he had some kind of illness and had to drop out of the band. I confess to being somewhat fascinated by the Wiggles. They are Australian, and when they get going, they really do appear to be having a good time--oh yes, and perhaps more importantly the hot Aussie girls that they have singing and dancing backup appear to be having the time of their lives too. The cuts are very quick--the dads don't really have time to leer at these girls at all, but they flash by just long enough that you are like "Wow! Who was she? I want, I..." They are the bottom of it all, is there any better state of life to inhabit in 2011 than being a young stud in Australia with direct and eagerly welcomed access to perhaps the last large group of Western women on the planet who have some sense of how to have a good time? I am not seeing it right now.

Another retro Smiths video. I like it even though it doesn't really fit the song that well. The saddest thing to me is that the boys who are having such a swell and wholesome time in the film would be pounded into jelly and turned into quivering psychological wrecks within a couple of days at the typical high school nowadays.

I included this because the images in the video really grab your attention, and the song is great too. It reminds me of the summer I painted houses. Like almost every job I have had, I was dismal at it--on my most infamous day on site I spent the entire 8 hours painting a single closet that was supposed to have taken 90 minutes tops--which leads me to think that maybe I really was meant for a more aristocratic life. Almost everyone else I know is rather good at working, and at their jobs; or at least believe themselves to be so. I wonder why I am not good at doing anything. It is not merely laziness; for I know a number of essentially lazy people who are still very good at their work.

You really can't sing. I am pretty sure that you are evil, and I have resisted you for years. But I am giving up. You win.

She looks Irish too--and she is Irish. And French. That appears to be all. God, she must be a Catholic too (if we were still using 1960 requirements; which is how I count, by the way.)

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